I was chatting with a friend who told me he heard this talk of mine on Sonshine FM recently and I thought I’d share it with you. You can read it below or listen to the MP3 here
So, how many of you this week have considered going to a nudist colony? I know that sounds like an odd question, but stay with me…
I’m guessing there weren’t many. So for those of you who didn’t consider attending a nudist colony this week I want to tempt you.
I want you to know that if you come to our nudist colony then you will have a wonderful time! We have just put in a brand new luxurious, swimming pool heated to perfect temperatures all year round, with a swim up bar and beautiful tropical gardens… We have dispensed with international roast and now have a state of the art coffee machine where our trained baristas will make whatever type of coffee your heart desires. And no more outdoor beach volleyball. No more sand in awkward places… Because we have just built a sensational indoor volleyball court with sprung timber floors that is air conditioned all year round.
Are you getting tempted yet?…
I’m guessing you’re not. I’d suggest that if naturalism isn’t your thing, then I am not going to succeed in winning you over with any of my enticements. I imagine we could have a stack of $100 notes just past the gate there for the taking and you still wouldn’t come.
Why is that?…
I don’t really want to talk you into being a nudist, but I ask those questions, trying to entice you, because I think this is often what we do in church. Deep in many of us is this bizarre belief that if we can just get the right formula of facilities, attractions and treats then people will want to come to church. If we can get the best music, the coolest preacher, the funkiest kids ministry and so it goes on, then all those people who currently are not part of any church will wake up one Sunday and say to one another ‘Hey – have you heard? The Baptists down the road have a funky band – and real coffee. No more international roast…’ And the neighbour will reply ‘A band?… You’re kidding, and real coffee?… What are we waiting for? Lets get down there now!’
Now you know that’s an absurd proposition – the folks in our communities are not sitting around waiting for us to get the Sunday formula right to entice them into our church. Most people I know who don’t consider themselves Christians think in much the same way about attending church as you do about attending nudist colony.
It’s just not on the radar and nothing we set up by way of attraction is going to change that.
That’s not a defeatist statement – its just a reality that we need to deal with in a post-Christian world – and I believe if we dig into the Bible we will see that Jesus’ take on mission has much less to do with getting the community into the church and much more to do with getting the church into the community.
When we speak of this thing called ‘mission’ we aren’t talking about what happens overseas and far away. We are talking about what happens in our own backyard – we are talking about one of the primary tasks of the church – to connect the good news of the kingdom of God with Australian people in ways they can understand and resonate with.
Mission comes from the latin word ‘missio’ which means ‘to send’. So when we consider ‘mission’ we ought to consider that we are the sent ones – all of us. We are sent to take the good news of the kingdom into the world, not to sit back and pray people come to us…
In some of the final words Jesus spoke to his disciples he said ‘As the father sent me into the world so I send you into the world.’
He does not call for a marketing campaign to fill the synagogues. He is isn’t scratching his head to come up with clever enticements. He is not hoping that people will find their way back to the building… Instead he says to his disciples ‘go’ into the world and meet people where they are.
This is how the gospel spread in the first place and this is the first step in connecting with our communities – to go to where people are at and to be the presence of Jesus there.
You can still invite people to church. It’s not a wrong thing to do, in fact for those who are ready for that step it’s a great thing to do. But I would suggest that if we read the gospels we will come to the conclusion that mission happens as we move out from our gathered community and into the lives of those we live amongst – as we choose to discover what it means to be his people in this world.